I cannot count the number of times I’ve either heard my coaching clients or parents on the street say, “My child just doesn’t listen to me!” or “Why can’t he/she just listen?”
There are two issues here:
1. The child doesn’t have a healthy level of respect for the parents’ authority (as hard as this may be to admit)
2. The parent is making the request at the wrong time.
Luckily, there are two great solutions to these issues.
I’ll never forget my first year of teaching. I was fresh out of university and was hired to teach French to a class that had gotten two other teachers to quit; they saw me as their new challenge and boy did they challenge me! I spent months trying to use every technique I had ever been taught – nothing worked. I tried talking to them, bribing them, yelling at them, punishing them, rewarding them yet nothing seemed to improve. One day I called the parent of one of the more difficult students to inform them, once again, of their son’s rude behaviour. The response I got from the father shook me to my core. He said, “Look, I can’t make him respect you. You have to do that.” How embarrassing!
“What do I do now?” I thought. After a lot of thought, prayer and contemplation I devised a 4 step discipline technique that I would try to use over and over again; I was tired of trying so many different strategies. And truly, once I really thought about things, I realized that the kids didn’t know what to expect from me because I kept changing my relationship and expectations with them.
It only took a few days to notice a HUGE improvement and by the end of that year even the most difficult kids cried at having to leave my class and move on to a new teacher. I had earned their respect and when I asked them to do something…or not to do something, they intrinsically wanted to listen.
This is what every parent needs to do. Once respect is there, not just love, but a genuine respect, then parenting becomes easy, simple and an extremely joyful, stress-free experience.
Using a simple, consistent form of discipline is key, as is enjoying special moments together as a family and spending one-on-one time with each child. Furthermore, specific praise as well as non-verbal praise needs to be present. If all of these areas are present between parent and child you’ve got yourself a winning situation and a child who will listen to you.
The second issue I see as being a problem with parents I coach is in the timing of their request.
We have our own agendas and when we want out kids to do something we want it done NOW so we can move on to our next task. Although this is understandable, we must understand and respect that our children have their own agendas and even though they seem trivial to us, they are very important to our kids. No one likes spur-of-the-moment interruptions, so be considerate.
When you want you child to do something try to:
a) Give a countdown. “Sally, in 5 minutes it’s time to eat dinner.” Or, “In 5 minutes it’s time to clean up.” Then gently count down.
b) Make the request after their TV program is over, during a commercial or at least not during an exciting part. If you have the option to pause the movie or program do so, then make your request, but be very specific. For example, “After this show it’s time to ________.”
c) Use praise or thank you’s when your child listens well. For example, “Thanks for coming so quickly after your program was finished, I appreciate that.” Then solidify the compliment with a quick smile, back rub, thumbs up, or squeeze of the hand.
Putting a few things into practice will change the dynamics in your family dramatically, as well as your relationship with your child – what’s better than that?
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